Xuan Fraser and Stéphanie Broschart are wedded to ideas in Andrew Moodie play.
TORONTO THE GOOD by Andrew Moodie (Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst). Runs to March 1. $20-$37. 416-504-9971. See listings. Rating: NNN
Toronto the Good just misses being great.
Andrew Moodie's latest takes on nothing less than race and justice, issues that begin heating up after a black teen named Solomon (Marcel Stewart) is pulled over late one weeknight in clubland by a police officer (Sandra Forsell) who then discovers he's carrying a gun.
Was it a case of racial profiling? Solomon's white defence attorney, Simon (Brian Marler), thinks so. The issue gets more complex because the Crown attorney prosecuting the case, Thomas Matthews (Xuan Fraser), is black and doesn't buy into the theory. When the teen gets involved in further violence, the issues - and the city - are in danger of exploding.
Moodie shows great empathy for all his characters, and there are lots here, including Thomas's white, Franco-Ontarian wife, Almanda (Stéphanie Broschart), who's about to have their first child, and the inner-city kids in her English class.
Monologues take us into characters' minds and fill in backstory but occasionally feel contrived. The best scenes involve confrontations between two characters, and in these the writing is layered and tense. A line about the city's reaction to the Jane Creba shooting delivers its point with chilling power.
It's to Moodie's credit that this is no mere courtroom drama or legal procedural. He's aiming for more, successfully capturing Toronto's feel and energy, even using the real names of politicians and media types.
At times you wish he'd narrow his focus. Thomas and Almanda feel less like a couple than like mouthpieces for the writer's ideas. Characters occasionally explode into rants that seem like attempts to cram everything in.
The performers successfully slip into and out of various characters, often in mere seconds. Forsell is especially good as the hard-to-read cop, and Miranda Edwards shows range as the defendant's sister, an ambitious black reporter and a savvy call girl. Fraser anchors the work with gravity and complexity.
The action is fluid under Philip Akin's direction, but Kelly Wolf's set, dominated by a clunky replica of a child's jungle gym, fails to resonate. Children are an obvious symbol in the play, but there's something ham-fisted about the way they're used here.